Since October 7, 2023, the events unfolding in the Israel-Palestine region have captivated minds and dominated headlines. Similar attention was given to the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war that began in earnest in February 2022. What makes the present conflict unique is the perceived theological significance assigned to the geo-political entity known as Israel. This has only inflamed the present discourse instead of moderating it. The purpose of this article is a pastoral one as I discuss seven principles I believe Christians need to know concerning war in general and this conflict in particular. If people outside Christianity take heed to it, so much the better.
1. Christians must stand for peace
As those bound to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, Christians must be exceedingly reluctant to throw their support behind any war. Now let me be clear: Christians must not to be pacifists. The command you shall not murder requires the lawful use of force and even taking life when justice necessitates it. Nevertheless, it also requires us to exhaust every option in the effort to avoid taking life unjustly (See Westminster Larger Catechism 135 and 136). That said, the Christian instinct should be toward peace. Our Savior said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). James 3:18 says, “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Therefore, our hearts should burn with longing for the nations of this war-torn world to transform their weapons of destruction into implements of the cultivation, and that they might walk in the light of the Lord (Is. 2:4-5).
Allow me to apply this more pointedly. While some war may be necessary, all war is undesirable. While some war may be just, all war is unimaginably destructive. War historian and ethicist Henrik Syse wrote, “War is dangerous because it poses a huge challenge to the soul that strives to live virtuously. A war can hardly be imagined in which cruelty and lust are not given far too free reign. Therefore, even just wars should be regretted, as the truly just man would much rather avoid the necessity of violent fighting than resort to arms.” War is not a football game where you can take sides and expect only emotional victory or defeat. War is a terrible judgment of God which all Christians should help to prevent.
2. Fallen humans inevitably drift toward violence and war
The rulers of this world who are insufficiently instructed by Christians and the word of God will remain largely unchecked in their drift toward lawlessness, violence, and war. This is because unbelieving men and nations are at war with Jesus Christ. It follows that the violence of war is the demonstration—not the cause—of the awful capacity of the sinful heart of man. God says this about lost sinners: “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:15-18). This spiritual cross-section of the unbelieving soul is a massive reason why Christians are called to bear salt and light witness in this dark and putrefying world. Ultimately, nothing less than the love of Christ revealed in the gospel by the Holy Spirit can teach those who are “living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” to pursue lasting peace (Titus 3:3). While we bear witness to Jesus Christ to bring Him honor and to see sinners saved, it is also an act of love to neighbor to teach them the way of peace and perhaps keep nations from war.
3. Fallen humans lie, especially when they govern nations
The Bible places violence and deception in close proximity with one another, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue” (Ps. 5:9, cf Ps. 36:1-3, Is. 59:2-3, Rom. 3:13-14). It should come as no surprise that one of the clearest tactics used by rulers and governments at war with Jesus is deception. This is true across the political and societal spectrum, for propaganda does not discriminate. It just deceives. In the interests of obeying our Lord’s command to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, all Christians must come to grips with this.
Christians must stand for truth. In our day of competing narratives, this requires careful discernment. Related to this, what the Apostle John said theologically has political and societal application, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). In other words, consider your sources. Is what you are hearing accurate? Is what you are reading true? Be mindful of the ubiquitous nature of propaganda, which is just a fancy word for publicly and widely told lies to gain ideological advantage. This does not mean the truth is inaccessible, but it does mean that, just as digging for buried treasure requires work and patience, sifting through the noise to find the truth requires careful thought. This is all the more vital today due to the technological capacity to manipulate images and even video.
As far as possible, our responsibility is to “live not by lies.” This good counsel comes from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
Our way must be, ‘never knowingly support lies.’ You may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what you really believe, but you can at least refuse to affirm what you do not believe. You may not be able to overthrow totalitarianism, but you can find within yourself and your community to live within the dignity of truth. If we must live under the dictatorship of lies, then our response must be, ‘Let their rule hold not through me.’
The particular lie to which I desire to apply this general principle is the lie that you must take sides in the present conflict; you must support one or the other. This is both false and dangerous. I will expand on this more below.
4. America is led by fallen humans who lie and inevitably drift toward violence
For the sake of His name and the good of the Church, God has mercifully preserved this nation for many generations. However, despite the solid beginning, we are witnessing decay and decline seemingly on every front. Consider this résumé of a nation under judgment: sexual perversity, rebellion and civil unrest, pride, incompetent leaders, unjust weights and measures, and, last but not least, war (for more explanation, listen to these sermons on Isaiah 3 and Revelation 6). I could say more, but my goal here is to plead with you to recognize that our country is as complicit for great sins before God as any other nation, more so if you consider the profound privileges and blessings God has given us. Earlier I urged you to consider your sources, and here I would like to expand on that to help you as you think through the information available to you. We hear reports of the massacres of women and children, and this is indefensibly terrible. It must not be lost on you, however, that many of the same people decrying this violence will in the next breath tell you that “woman” is a social construct and that the systematic destruction of babies in the womb (ie, abortion) is a matter of reproductive justice. The point? Do not instinctively believe what you hear from American sources.
5. Hamas is led by fallen humans who lie and inevitably drift toward violence
Hamas is an acronym for the Arabic title of the Islamic Resistance Movement based out of Palestine where they hold power as the governing authority. For my purposes here, I urge you to keep the following in mind. First, Hamas in particular, and the unbelieving Arab world in general, lives in darkness. They need Jesus Christ to break the generations of unbelief corrupting their souls. Islam is devoid of the sanctifying power of the Spirit of Christ, and those adhering to that religion ultimately have no power to resist sin and Satan. Second, there are two major factors driving their animosity against the modern nation-state Israel. First, the predominantly Islamic Arabic world, of which Palestine is a part, holds to a religious ideology historically at war with Judaism, whether its historic or modern conceptions. Second, the Palestinian region has been on the receiving end of generations of brutal treatment from their US-backed neighbor Israel. While this is not a justification for terrorism, it does provide some context of understanding for what drives the militant Palestinian hatred toward Israel, even to the point of terroristic violence.
6. Israel is led by fallen humans who lie and inevitably drift toward violence
What I wrote above about Hamas, Palestine, and the unbelieving Arabic world is also true of the modern nation-state of Israel. To put it bluntly, Israel in particular, and Jews in general, reject Jesus Christ as King and Savior. For that reason they cannot but live in the same spiritual condition referenced above, “living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” This is not reason to hate either Israel, Jews, Muslims, or Palestinians, but rather reason to plead with the God of peace to bring the light of His gospel to reign in the hearts of the people of these lost nations. Unless this happens, the underlying hatred will only intensify, the occasions for war and violence will only continue to grow, and the blood of both sides will only continue to flow.
I must say more about Israel, however, because they hold a place of theological importance in the minds of many Christians, in particular American Christians heavily influenced by Zionism. I need to make this clear at the outset: despite the name Israel, this modern-nation state has no theological or redemptive historical significance than any other nation. In fact, besides the terminology of Israel and Jew that you find in the Bible, they have nothing to do with true, biblical religion. Their right to self-defense, therefore, is neither more sacred nor unqualified than any other nation or geo-political entity over which Jesus Christ rules as King of kings. For that reason, Israel’s response to the attacks of Hamas must be governed by righteousness and legality. Please do not allow yourself to be swept away in quasi-religiopolitical sentiment that leads you to lose sight of biblical righteousness (for more on the theological significance of Israel, click here).
7. Both Israel and Hamas are backed by violent and deceptive nations and entities whose minds the god of this age—Satan—has blinded
I do not want you to think I am being overly-alarmist with what I am about to say, but it is vital to bear the following in mind: the world is one relatively small mistake away from global war. You do not need a political science degree to connect the dots. Israel is backed unquestioningly by the United States. NATO and other western powers stand by them as well. Hamas and Palestine are backed by the predominant Arab world, most notably by Iran. Iran is not far removed from Russia, and therefore, China. US and NATO have been aggressively engaged in fighting Russia with Ukrainian lives, and now our president has recently solicited more funds directed to assist Taiwan in its increasing tensions against mainland China. Friends, we must pray and stand for peace.
Behind the halls of power lurks the ever-malevolent enemy Satan and those spiritual hosts allotted to him. Do not be deceived, but “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8, see also Daniel 10 for this principle). There are so many “whose minds the god of this age has blinded” (2 Cor. 4:4). People were made to exercise dominion, but that instinct in the unbelieving heart, especially when corrupted with power and deception, inevitably leads to war.
God is shaking the kingdoms of this earth. War is a way that He accomplishes this judgment. How should Christians respond? While Daniel certainly did not spend the night of Babylon’s demise rejoicing in their downfall, I cannot imagine him taking sides between two warring, ungodly nations (Dan. 5:30-31). Or later, when the Greeks would conquer the Persians, were the people of God compelled to support one pagan nation over another? What brings this so much closer to home, however, is that in our current day, “standing behind Israel” or chanting “Free Palestine” has the potential to lead to far greater calamities.
My burden for you, dear reader, is that you are not deceived or pressured into instinctively or uncritically taking a side in this current conflict, whether emotional or political, by the blowing winds of competing propaganda. In pleading for peace shortly before the beginning of the War that ripped this nation apart, Robert L. Dabney said, “It cannot but appear to the reasonable mind most unsuitable that Christian men and Christian ministers should be in the extreme front of party movements, when all history tells us that such movements never become heated without becoming extreme…Let us see to it that we do not initiate the sin, nor share the guilt of those who have perverted the sacred influences of Christianity to sanctify their malignant feelings” (emphasis added). I do not want you to share in a sentiment that could lead this nation and world into lamentable disaster.
The Lord Jesus said that this age would be scarred and punctuated by the ravages of sin, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matt. 24:4-9, cf Mk. 13:7-8, Lk. 21:8-9). The call of the Christian regarding this is first and foremost not to be deceived. Do not get swept away into any lie that would lead your soul into danger, let alone your body. Second, the believer need not be afraid. There is a sovereign and divine hand governing each tremor that rattles either soul or city. Take comfort that “the way of the wicked He turns upside down” (Ps. 146:9). Third, seek the Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:27-28). This does not mean retreat, but rather, bring the unshakable truth into whatever sphere and discourse that you can in the effort to honor the Lord Jesus and to love your neighbor. Fourth, live in the stability freely given to those in Jesus. Hear His promise and command, “But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience, possess your souls” (Lk. 21:18-19). May the Lord give you grace to live in faith as we await His coming and stand in awe as He rules the nations.
 I say in earnest because the seeds for the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine had been planted many years before. The eastern region of Ukraine has been in the throes of civil war and unrest since 2014, and even those events flow from earlier geo-political decisions.
 Henrik Syse and Gregory M. Reichberg, eds., Ethics, Nationalism, and Just War: Medieval and Contemporary Perspectives (Washington, D.C: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007), 43, at which point he directs the reader to Augustine’s City of God, book 19, chapter 7, where Augustine wrote, “Let everyone, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of [wars] without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling.”
 Renowned military ethicist, Michael Walzer, in Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (Basic Books, 2006), 4, wrote “What we conventionally call inhumanity is simply humanity under pressure.” This is the universal condition of the depraved heart of natural man.
 Quoted in Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies: A Manuel for Christian Dissidents, Sentinel (September 29, 2020), xiv. Please do not take this citation as an endorsement of all of Rod Dreher’s writings. It is not.
 In the current environment of heightened national attention to Israel, this is quickly brushed aside as “antisemitic” propaganda. A simple review of history will show you that since the end of World War One, land long occupied by the Palestinian Arabs has been steadily shrinking due to seizure by Israeli forces. Often this is supported by appealing to the biblical right of Israel to own this land outright. Not only is questionable politically, I explain here that it is wrong theologically.
 Robert Lewis Dabney, Discussions: Theological and Evangelical, ed. C. R. Vaughan, Vol. 2, (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1891), 417.